OK, so it’s cliche and hyperbolic, but could Creighton be this year’s version of Butler?
Only time will tell, especially during March, but the potential for comparison is there, and I’m taking it.
And as schools, the analogy is even more relevant.
Both are private colleges in major midwestern cities of roughly the same size; both play in so-called “mid majors” (conference that are 95% as good as the BCS schools, and this year, I’d put the MVC and a few other “mid majors” up against the ACC or Pac-10 any day); both have enrollments of roughly 4,000 undergrads; both wear blue and white; and both have (or had) a star player who embodies the typically overlooked caucasian heartland high school player.
For Butler, that was Gordon Hayward (or Matt Howard), now, at the tender age of 21, emerging as a solid NBA player. For Creighton, it’s sophomore Doug McDermott, son of Coach Greg. And while Doug may not come out for the draft early a la Gordon, the forward from Ames, Iowa, is arguably the nation’s best player– something Hayward could never claim. At least statistically, no player rivals the 20-year-old, who was a high school teammate of North Carolina standout Harrison Barnes.
So the Blue Jays, now 17-2 (7-1 in the rough Valley, having just knocked off Missouri State in Springfield, the only team to beat Creighton in conference play), have beaten three Big Ten teams, won at #16 San Diego State (the last team to beat the 16-2 Aztecs) and avenged their only MVC loss.
After that defeat, CU was in danger of an 0-2 conference start, but won a brutal game 72 hours later on New Year’s Eve at Wichita State. That was a win any team in America would struggle to achieve, as not only have the Shockers won every other home tilt this season, but they’re 16-3 (7-1, MVC), ranked #13 in Pomeroy, and undoubtedly a tourney team barring a major collapse.
The Shockers and Blue Jay meet Feb. 11 in Omaha. That is a game any fan of good college hoops should watch.
Who knows how deep into March Creighton will travel, but for someone who attended 28 Butler home games in Indianapolis the past five years, including the NCAA Final versus Duke in April 2010, the similarities are vast.
Both, naturally, are under the national radar. Butler was left for dead at this time last year, and when I returned from Wednesday night’s Nebraska-Indiana shocker in Lincoln, ESPN barely mentioned Creighton’s clutch win at Missouri State.
The question, therefore, may not be Is Creighton this year’s Butler, but rather Can Creighton be this year’s Butler?
There is a difference. And, unlike college football, we shall find out.